Current research projects

The cluster’s members are involved in the following research projects at the Oxford Internet Institute:

An Ethical Framework for the New Civic Responsibilities of Online Service Providers

Participants: Prof. Luciano Floridi, Dr Mariarosaria Taddeo
This project aims to analyse the new civic responsibilities of Online Service Providers, and the policies regulating them.

Ethics of Biomedical Big Data

Participants: Prof. Luciano Floridi, Dr Brent Mittelstadt
This project seeks to investigate the ethical aspects and requirements of Big Data in preparation to develop a European framework for the ethical use of Big Data in biomedical research.

The Logics of Information Visualisation

Participant: Prof. Luciano Floridi, Dr Patrick Allo
Information visualisation is an essential tool in data-science, but the lack of a theoretical foundation currently prevents visualisation science to make substantial progress and develop solutions for the epistemological challenges posed by Big Data. Starting from the current state of the art in formal logic and the philosophy of information, the prospects of a new foundation for information visualisation are explored. This should lead to a model of the information-lifecycle in visualisation that sheds light on trade-offs in design decisions, gives a unified account for reasoning and communication with visualisations, and explains why and how information-visualisation allows us to climb the Data-Information-Knowledge hierarchy. Given the epistemic challenges in science and in policy-decisions, substantial attention is also devoted to what can go wrong with the use of information-visualisation, which requires the development of an account of mis- and disinformation, and of fallacious reasoning based on computer-generated representations of data.

GoodLife Online

Participant: Prof. Luciano Floridi
Individuals living in information societies, like China or the United Kingdom, increasingly perceive their personal identity online (PIO) not just as their personal information available online, but also as who they are online. For them, the quality of life that they can enjoy through their PIOs is crucially important, as it has wide repercussions in terms of the quality of their onlife (both online and offline) experience. This is evident when considering, for example, the effects of cyber bullying, i.e., the harassment perpetrated online on someone’s PIO, especially on young individuals. Cyber harassment rates for young people across the EU countries ranges from 10% to 52%. Young individuals who report being victims of bullying online also experience stress and exhibit problematic behaviour offline, such as running away from home, truancy, using alcohol or drugs, and, in the most tragic circumstances, committing suicide. PIOs pose increasingly pressing, ethical demands for a healthy and rewarding online experience, in which individuals may enjoy more affordances and spaces for self-expression, in other words, a ‘the good life online’. However, current policies still treat PIOs as mere collections of personal information available online (a typical example is the ID for an online bank account) and hence focus almost exclusively on the protection of privacy and anonymity. Thus, they crucially underestimate the need to support PIOs and their proper developments educationally, ethically, and socially, in order to enable individuals and groups to enjoy a good life online. This project will develop an innovative and effective approach to the ethical management of PIO.

Viral Messaging: its Nature and Dynamics

Participant: Prof. Luciano Floridi
Viral messaging has been increasingly popular since the late 90s, as a rather aggressive marketing technique. During the past decade, the exponential growth of social networks and other internet-based communication services has transformed viral messaging into a main communication strategy, boosting its pervasiveness and effectiveness. The more recent outcome has been a further transformation of viral messaging from a simple marketing strategy into a new means of social-media campaigning. Especially in China rumors are being spreaded virally on social media such as Weibo and Wechat. Economists and political scientists have analysed various forms of viral messaging and how they influence receivers to update their beliefs and change their behaviours, but there is an evident gap in the current understanding of viral messaging regarding the identification of more general features that may concern wide sections of a population of receivers (e.g. all citizens of a region), across a variety of sensitive topics, through a multiplicity of media, with long-term strategic goals. This project will investigate the general factors that facilitate or hinder the “virality” of a message – e.g., content, source, disseminations means, time of dissemination and format – and analyse what factors could realistically be observed and identified, using which methodologies, in newly emergent messages that would suggest that those messages are likely to become viral.